At first glance this video has much to commend. I think it brings up some important distinctions between what Christianity is often portrayed to be, but is not. But I am also uncomfortable with his "anti-religion" rant. I was going to critique his thoughts on religion, but then Zack Hunt over at the American Jesus posted a longish post responding to the video. He has seven points. I have provided the titles and a snippet of each point. You can read his full post here.
Religion is not the evil Bethke or so many others portray it to be. Simply defined religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ador or faith.” See? Not that scary. In fact, religion can be very good.
In other words, the “Jesus and me” gospel this video and so many of us proclaim is a path that has only one destination: idolatry. Not the kind of idolatry that has us bowing down to golden calves, but the kind that has Jesus looking and acting suspiciously like ourselves.
Jesus’ issue wasn’t with the Jewish faith, i.e. religion, which he himself was a part of. He took issue with those who would use God’s commandments to exploit and oppress others. This is a profoundly important distinction.
It is Luther, not Jesus, who raises such a fuss about the institution of religion and rightfully so. The church during his day was profoundly corrupt at the highest levels and was in deep need of reform. Note, however, that even Luther was interested in “reform” (thus the term “Reformation”), not “abolishment”.
If there is anything that is at the heart of the modern Protestant Evangelical gospel it’s the belief in “sola fide”; the idea that we are saved by “faith alone.” Once again, your champion for this cause is Martin Luther, not Jesus.
If you go to, participate in, and support a local church, whether it’s a huge mega-church, an “average” sized rural church, or a small house church that meets in somebody’s living room then you support organized religion. And that’s ok.
Bethke says “If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?” I’ll give the guy a pass for the first half of this statement. I assume he’s a product of our American educational system and if so, it explains his understanding of history or lack thereof.As for the second accusation that church fails to feed the poor. I don’t know how to label this charge anything but absolute ignorance. Even the biggest mega-churches that get so often get ridiculed for any number of reasons, almost always have ongoing outreach ministries. There are very few outreach organizations in this country or any other that are not faith-based or at least affiliated with a religious organization.